I covered Chicago City Hall for nearly 17 years. City Hall is one of the most prestigious journalism assignments and I was proud to be there for so many years covering seven Chicago Mayors including Richard J. Daley, Michael A. Bilandic, Jane M. Byrne, Harold Washington, (acting mayor) David Orr, (acting mayor) Eugene Sawyer, and Richard M. Daley.
The years covering Bilandic, Byrne, Washington, Sawyer, and the first few years of the Richard M. Daley administration, were turbulent and you had to be fast, accurate and vigilant. The circumstances of the writing were often challenging and difficult but those difficult challenges helped my hone my writing craft.
I am proud to have won many journalism awards for my writing, the news and feature stories and the political opinion columns and the analysis.
After leaving professional journalism in 1992, I expanded my political analysis and also launched Urban Strategies Group to work with clients I believed were honest, fair and had the interests of the public in mind. I wanted to work with true public servants. Most were good and those few who were not I quickly left. But I learned much working in that environment, understanding especially the strategic principles of crisis communication, and communications under siege.
You cannot deal with crisis communications simply by reading a book or about the experiences of others and that is a challenge facing many of today’s media consultants who claim expertise but lack frontline, on-the-job training. Being there at the frontlines of cutting edge journalism and politics has given me insight and knowledge that few others share.
I continue writing because I am one of the best writers in the country. I write based on principle, ethics and fairness. I am not a populist and I often embrace the “underdog good causes.” It’s wrong that a good cause is beaten down simply for its lack of understanding the fundamentals of good journalism.
I write about Chicagoland, Illinois and American politics. I also write about issues facing baby boomers, and I also write using humor.
And, because my father is from Jerusalem and my mother is from Bethlehem, as a American Arab Palestinian, I also write about Middle East issues.
My views on the Middle East are principled and fair. I oppose the use of violence and I oppose the extremists who engage in violent rhetoric and conduct. I support the principle of Two-States, one Jewish (Israel) and one non-Jewish (Palestinian). I attended and participated int he 1993 signing of the Camp David Accords between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian President Yasir Arafat. I often met with and spoke with Arafat about how to make the peace process work. I was privileged to meet Rabin before he was assassinated by an Israeli extremist.
Since then, the peace process has collapsed and many who once supported peace have been discouraged into embracing hopelessness that feeds selfish partisan politics that empowers the extremists. I constantly write opinions challenging the policies of both the Israeli and Arab governments. The goal is to prevent extremism on both sides from growing. Extremism is the cancer and the real conflict is between the extremists who oppose peace (Israeli and Arabs) and the moderates who support peace (Israeli and Arabs).
In 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, I launched a standup comedy career to use humor to break through the growing animosity and hate between Arabs and Jews. It was a difficult effort and I was confronted by many fanatics including when I was attacked by Jewish American comedian Jackie Mason simply because I was, in his words, “not just an Arab, but a Palestinian.”
I know that many Palestinians and many Israelis and Jews do not get along but the worse it is the more we must do to suppress the extremism and encourage hope and peace to save lives.
(I continue to reach out to Jackie Mason and urge him reconsider his opposition. I have challenged him to stand with me on stage and perform comedy for Israelis and Palestinians and all audiences to demonstrate that peace is not made between those who agree but between those who disagree.)
I also believe in supporting the growth of journalism and writing among American Arabs and much of m writing has addressed stories about Americans Arabs that have been ignored by the mainstream news media. Too much of the negative stereotypes of American Arabs have been fed by false assertions and inaccurate stories that have been written, unfairly, in the news media. The stories have been unbalanced.
I have never asked the American news media to be “pro-Arab.” I have only demanded that the American news media do it’s job and present both sides fairly and accurately. Cover the negative but also cover the positive. When you only cover the negative news, you are a biased media.
My columns have appeared in newspapers around the world including in Israel in the Jerusalem Post, YnetNews.com, Yedioth Aharonot, the Times of Israel and in the Arab World in the Arab News, the Saudi Gazette, and in many other newspapers. I cover the American Arab and Muslim community and publish many of those stories in The Arab Daily News.
I hope you find the columns to be informative and I hope that they help you see through the fog of the conflict and recognize that this conflict is not about Arabs versus Jews, but is about extremists versus moderates.